Athanasios Hadjis: "I'm lazy"
As I reported two weeks ago, the Canadian Constitution Foundation applied for intervenor status in Marc Lemire's constitutional challenge to section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the thought crimes section.
It was a breakthrough: a highly-regarded, mainstream civil rights organization weighing in on behalf of Lemire. The CCF is a registered charity, with a sterling record of defending minority rights, ranging from Japanese-Canadian fishermen to a Nisga'a chief. Not only is the CCF comprised of true constitutional experts -- it even has Eugene Meehan, the former president of the Canadian Bar Association on its board of advisors -- but it is politically mainstream. It can't be sloughed off as some neo-Nazi front -- the opposite, in fact.
No wonder their application for intervenor status was summarily rejected.
Today, Athanasios Hadjis, the chair of the tribunal hearing the matter, threw out the CCF's request to join in as an intervenor. Hadjis's brief ruling is a repulsive blend of arrogance, laziness and prejudice. Let's be honest: Hadjis is bored, and doesn't want to waste time going through the motions of a fair hearing, and the CCF means he potentially has hours of extra reading to do.
Throughout the March 25th hearing, Hadjis repeatedly sighed "we're done" -- even when the lawyers of the case weren't done. I wasn't there, so I don't know how many times Hadjis looked at the clock, but I'm sure it was in the dozens. But can you really blame Hadjis? The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has a 100% conviction rate for section 13 thought crimes. They're just going through the motions anyways. Can't they just hurry up, so he can declare Lemire guilty?
Hadjis's ruling is laughable, and the CCF should immediately appeal it to the Federal Court. Take paragraph 6:
The administration of this case has been to say the least, unwieldy and challenging.
Hadjis is right. He has run a mockery of a hearing. A dozen examples of his incompetence come to mind, ranging from the withholding of transcripts from the respondent, to Hadjis's continuing refusal to compel the prosecutors at the Canadian Human Rights Commission to hand over their document disclosure. The trial is done, and the respondent has yet to see the full case against him.
(Question: when does serial incompetence become corruption? Answer: when the respondent's rights are violated, and Hadjis doesn't give a damn. That was long ago.)
You've got to admire Hadjis's use of the passive tense: "this case has been... unwieldly". Yes, that's like writing "mistakes were made" -- it's wonderfully vague. It was Hadjis's job to make the hearings work. He failed. I'm not quite sure why the respondent should pay for that by having a prospective ally denied.
Or look at Hadjis's excuse in paragraph 8:
...interested party status will not be granted if it does not add significantly to the legal positions of the parties representing a similar viewpoint.
Oh, really? Is there really a difference amongst the positions taken by three of the intervenors against Lemire -- the Canadian Jewish Congress, the B'nai Brith and the Simon Wiesenthal Center? They're so cookie-cutter, they even file joint affidavits -- as in this affidavit, that denigrates Canadian Jews as being psychologically insecure. Yet all three of them received Hadjis's approval. That couldn't be because they're all on the side of the prosecution, is it?
Or: is it because, before Hadjis received his patronage appointment, he was vice-president of Canada's Hellenic Congress, and he formed a coalition with the Canadian Jewish Congress? Did he approve the CJC's application because they were old friends, but the CCF wasn't?
Also in paragraph 8 is this line:
If the CCF has any specific arguments that if feels may be relevant to the constitutional issue, nothing prevents it from sharing them with the Respondent and any of the existing interveners so that they may be put before the Tribunal by these participants' more than able counsel and agents.
Oh, really? So the CCF can sit in the gallery, and pass notes to Lemire's lawyer during the breaks? That's awfully sporting. But let's look frankly at the last six words there: "more than able counsel and agents". The fact is, arrayed against Lemire are not only the entire resources of the federal Justice Department, but the eight-figure budget of the CHRC with a 170-person staff; and the other intervenors against him -- including two lawyers from the enormous firm Blake Cassels & Graydon.
On the other team we have Barbara Kulaszka, a sole practitioner, representing Lemire himself; Paul Fromm, a non-lawyer; and occasional participation from Victoria lawyer Doug Christie. All are working essentially pro bono -- they couldn't even afford to pay for transcripts.
It's impressive how well that rag-tag team has done in the face of such overwhelming odds. But I don't think that a neutral observer would say that Lemire's team is "more than able" to match the force against them.
Pound for pound, it just hasn't been a fair fight. Which is exactly why Hadjis doesn't want the legal eagles from the CCF -- or anyone else, like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association -- coming in. Not just because, with the likes of Eugene Meehan on board, the CHRC's case would be torn to ribbons. But also because Eugene Meehan and the others at the CCF have a perfect reputation politically. Unlike Fromm, Christie and Kulaszka, they aren't outside the political mainstream. Hadjis wants to keep Lemire marginalized, both legally and politically.
The most telling line in Hadjis's phone-it-in ruling -- issued on a Friday, to minimize media scrutiny -- is the last line:
I note that none of the participants has objected to the proposed intervention of the CCF...
So let's get this straight. No-one other than Hadjis thinks it's a problem having the CCF there. No-one else thinks it will be too much of a hassle; no-one else thinks the case will be inordinately delayed or prejudiced; no-one else is arguing that the CCF is redundant.
Richard Warman, the nominal complainant himself, doesn't object.
It's lazy-bones Hadjis, who frets again about his own management skills.
I'd call for Hadjis to be impeached as a judge but, of course, he's not a judge. He's chief kangaroo in a kangaroo court.
He's already made up his mind. Lemire is guilty. Why waste time.
Fire. Them. All.
UPDATE: I see that Hadjis has released other rulings today, including this one, denying Lemire full disclosure of the case against him, including the disclosure specifically required under Rule 6 of the tribunal's own rules.
This is the problem of trying to fight a rogue, corrupt organization like the CHRC/CHRT from within. It's impossible, when the other side not only controls the rules, but changes those rules if you somehow manage to win under them.
An appeal to a real court is a possible remedy, but Canadian courts generally defer to administrative tribunals, even if they're wrong. I believe that a court challenge is necessary, and might even win; but I believe that the better strategy is the one that we've been following to date: denormalize the HRCs in public, and make it possible for legislators to reform or abolish them. There's no point playing a rigged game. When men like Hadjis themselves are the problem, it's unreasonable to think that men like Hadjis will fix the problem.
It's up to Rob Nicholson, Jason Kenney and even Stephen Harper to fix the problem.